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SailorJack

I Like Warm Beaches and Drinks with Umbrellas...So What's with the Icebergs?

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Let me first start off by avowing in the most strenuous of terms that I am strictly a warm water sailor - as I enjoy relaxing around the pool, snorkeling, and walking barefoot in the warm sand on a sun-drenched Caribbean beach. That is why I have assiduously avoided cruising to such locales as Siberia, the Yukon Territory, and International Falls, Minnesota! I say this because for some reason totally bewildering to me I have agreed to SailorJill's suggestion that we take a winter cruise to the Antarctic on the Infinity. Our daughter, Alexis, (we named her that because if we hadn't had her we could be driving one) thinks it is because of SailorJill's salient argument: "But Jack, it's summer down there in February;" but I think it is because she made the suggestion when I was feeling quite mellow after spending a pleasant evening with my good friend Adolf Coors watching the Hula Bowl on my 55 inch flat screen TV.

 

Jill was quite right of course - February is a summer month in Antarctica. In a place where the coldest temperature on Earth was ever recorded, other than perhaps in Leona Helmsly's bedroom, (a mind numbing minus 128.6 degrees - in Antarctica, not the bedroom), Antarctica allegedly warms up to a balmy minus 10 degrees in early February! I'm thinking I will probably have to leave my snorkeling gear at home on this trip. Be that as it may, I will reluctantly put off my trip to Tahiti one more time and spend two weeks dreaming that I am actually in the South Pacific. But even as I was calling our travel agent to book the cruise, Chris De Burgh's song, Don't Pay the Ferryman, and its refrain "Don't do it, Don't do it" kept running through my mind.

 

Needless to say, I ignored the warning signs and signed up for the two week jaunt to the bottom of the world. Then, straight out of the "bad news comes after final payment" department, I discover an article in Wikipedia.com in which weather conditions for Antarctica are enumerated as being either Classifications 1, 2, or 3 - with Condition 3 being the mildest:

 

Weather Condition 3

 

"Wind speed below 48 knots (55 miles per hour)

Visibility greater than 1/4 of a mile (402 meters)

Wind chill above −75 °F (−60 °C)

Description: Pleasant conditions; all outside travel is permitted."

 

A wind chill above minus 75 degrees is considered pleasant! Just how many Parkas can I stuff into a suitcase? On the positive side, however, I guess I won't have to depend on the cabin attendant for ice - I can just chip it off the balcony railing. Well, what's done is done. Nothing else to do but face the music.

 

Pre Cruise - Buenos Aires

 

We have arrived in this fabulous city known as the Paris of the South and, while tired after our red-eye flight, we are looking forward to our day in Buenos Aires. After collecting our luggage we head outside to look for a taxi to take us to our hotel. We are staying at a new hotel (for us) which is in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Ricola - an area where we have stayed before and which I can highly recommend. After checking into our hotel, we change our clothes, freshen up and head out for our first day in Buenos Aires - where we join a walking tour of the city. The tour was one of the best we have ever had (and I say that not because it was free! OK, maybe just a little), but because our tour guide was informative, helpful and personable. The tour was a great combination of facts, local lore, and humor. Did I mention that it was free?

 

One of our stops on the tour was at the Casa Rosada or Pink Palace as it is known. The Palace is located in the middle of town and sits across from the very famous Plaza de Mayo, which, according to sources in the know, is in negotiations to be sponsored by Hellmann's.

 

The Palace is the home of the executive branch of the Argentinean government and is, indeed, Pink! Now I know what a lot of you are thinking - that a gang of Uruguayans, jealous that Buenos Aires and not Montevideo was being called the "Paris of the South" swam across the Rio de la Plata one night and played a practical joke on Argentina by painting the President's mansion pink.

 

But such is just not the case. The Palace, believe it or not, was actually designed to be pink! Apparently a group of architects hired by the government to design the Palace were sitting around the TV watching Martha Stewart - and probably drinking White Zinfandel - and decided that pink would be a good thing! As an interesting sidelight of history, we are told that the security people hired to guard the Palace were known as Pinkertons, and it was several of these agents who immigrated to the United States and founded the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

 

While visiting the Palace and photographing the window from which Madonna sang Don't Cry for Me Argentina was, indeed, most interesting, the real highlights of the tour included getting my pocket picked, getting lost on the subway, and watching some guy, whose name I was unable to ascertain, give SailorJill a big hug. (well actually, that may have been more of SailorJill's highlight that mine!)

 

Our subway adventure began upon the conclusion of the walking tour as we headed back to our hotel. My normally infallible sense of direction deserted me and I became quite confused as to which station I needed to get off at. I thought it was at Pueyrredon Station, but one of our tour members insisted it was the Jose Hernandez Station. As I repeatedly got up to look at the map on the train wall and debate the issue, about half the patrons on the train got involved in the animated discussion (in varying degrees of English) - with none of them taking my side.

 

Bowing to the helpful encouragement of the people in the train, we got off at the Jose Hernandez Station (which turned out to be the correct one). It was at this point I had my pocket picked. As I was getting off the train, a guy rubbed up against me and used the distraction to slide his hand into my left pocket - where he obtained nothing more than a lump of lint. Still, it was MY lint and I objected to him taking it - so I grabbed his wrist and pulled his hand out of my pocket. The surprised look on his face made me feel somewhat guilty as I thought -maybe the poor guy just tripped and his hand accidently went into my pocket. Quickly discarding that line of thought I then actually felt a pang of empathy for the rather inept little guy - he was obviously new at the pickpocket game - and briefly considered giving him some spare change that was in my other pocket, but he hopped back onto the departing train before I could give the idea any credible thought.

 

Perhaps the brief aborted attempt at wealth redistribution confused me for a moment, as I then had trouble deciding which of three tunnels to take to get back up to street level. After one failed effort to find the right way out (due in part to my misunderstanding of the Spanish language), one of the young men who had helped us on the train came over and guided us to the correct ramp that put us on the right side of Avenida de Santa Fe. Upon departing us he gave SailorJill a big hug that put a smile on her face. And that, in a nut shell, sort of summed up our first day - I get my pocket picked and Jill gets a hug!

 

(Note to future Buenos Aires subway travelers - the Spanish word "Salida" does not mean "Salad", but is their word for "Exit.")

 

 

Day 1 (Boarding Day in Buenos Aries)

 

Before heading to the port for our afternoon boarding, SailorJill has signed us up for a morning Tango lesson at an Escuela de Tango. I tried to explain to her that they would probably have free lessons on the ship, but she thought having a more private lesson here in Buenos Aires - the city that gave birth to the Tango - would be "romantic." So after breakfast we took a taxi to the Escuela de Tango where we joined four other couples for the two hour class. I will spare you the details of the class, but I thought it actually went pretty well. The instructor even complimented my efforts - saying that of all the skills necessary to successfully dance the Tango, I lacked only two - rhythm and grace. Apparently the secret to mastering the dance involves moving the feet and hips in synchronization to the music and not counting out loud. The instructor also encouraged me to attend a second class on Monday, but I declined saying that I would learn rhythm and grace at the dance class on the ship.

 

At the conclusion of the class we were told that we could buy a DVD of the highlights of our lesson, but SailorJill suggested that I save our money as I could probably download mine for free from Argentina's Funniest Home Videos. The episode, she said, would probably be entitled "It Takes Two to Tangle." I don't think that was a compliment. On a more positive note, however, we had a great time and I can now count from 1 to 8 in Spanish.

 

After our Tango class it was time to go shopping. One of the things SailorJill wanted to pick up was some wine to bring aboard the ship. Now I will be the first to admit that I am not the most knowledgeable person about wine. OK, I'm not knowledgeable at all! When it comes time to order wine at dinner my palms start to sweat and I start to stutter as the wines of which I am most familiar - Boone's Farm, Annie Green Springs, and Two Buck Chuck - are never on the wine list.

 

At least ordering wines used to be simple - Red for meat and white for fish. Then they came out with pink wine. Pink! What type of man orders a pink wine when out to dinner? Really! Recognizing the problem, wine marketers have now given it a much more sophisticated name - Rosé. "May I have a bottle of inexpensive rosé, please" sounds so much better than "Can I have some cheap pink wine, please." But a rosé by any other name is still... pink! But perhaps not. In an extremely clever ploy, the wine industry, in order to sell more pink wine, has set out to convince innocent oenophiles that pink is not pink. Case in point, I give you..... White Zinfandel! I guess you serve it with quiche. (In an effort to help stop this insidious plan I have joined the non-profit consumer group, "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink White Zinfadel.com).

 

And what's up with all the funny names for wine? I was on a business trip when I got a text from SailorJill stating, "I have just bought a Bichon Frise for $120." Frankly, I was somewhat taken aback and responded, "You just paid $120 for a bottle of French wine!" Well, you can imagine my chagrin when she replied, "Jack, I did not buy a Pouilly-Fumé, I bought a Bichon Frise - it's the rescue dog we talked about." Well, it sure sounded like a French wine.

 

But I digress. Entering the wine store we were greeted by a salesperson:

 

Salesperson: "Welcome to our store. How may I help you."

SailorJack: "We would like a couple of bottles of good inexpensive Argentinean wine, please."

Salesperson: "Certainly, may I suggest you try one of our national wines - a Tempranillo. It has a pleasant nose, clean legs, and, if I may say so, is just a little bit precocious. (So far he was describing my dog - the Bichon Frise.) I think you will also find it low in tannins and ending with a smooth peppery finish."

SailorJack: "It's not pink is it? It sounds pink."

Salesperson: "No, it is a classic Red from the Rioja grape."

SailorJack: "OK, I'll take a bottle. Do you have anything else?"

Salesperson: "Argentina is known for its fantastic Malbecs and I would recommend this one."

SailorJack: "It's not pink is it?"

 

Our two bottles of wine purchased, we hailed a cab and headed back to our room to collect our bags before heading down to the ship. Note to Future Visitors: Our cab driver pointed out to me that the hotel was actually in the Recoleta neighborhood; apparently Ricola is actually some kind of a Swiss cough drop...sorry about that.

 

Once at the pier we found the boarding process to be extremely hectic due to the fact that there were three ships boarding at the same time. After wending our way through crowds and several long lines we were finally walking up the gangway and entering the ship when a sharply dressed crew type person proffered us a Mimosa. I politely declined, explaining to the crew member that I was Citrus Intolerant and could not drink orange juice. Apparently familiar with some of the dietary restrictions of passengers, the lady generously handed me a nice glass of champagne.

 

Eventually reaching our cabin on Deck 6, I retired to the balcony with a glass of our newly acquired Malbec so as not to be in SailorJill's way as she unpacked our six suitcases. Leafing through our first issue of the Celebrity Today newsletter I quickly came to the conclusion that perhaps Jill's insistence on booking this cruise may not be as bad as I had originally feared. According to the schedule there would be free Champagne in the Art Gallery at 6:00 PM, a Super Bowl party at 6:30, and free liquor tastings in the Emporium from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM! I was not sure if I was up to tasting liquors for two hours, but I vowed to give it my best try. There was also a note inviting us to the Captain's Cocktail Party the next day. And this was just the first day of our cruise!

 

 

Day 2 At Sea

 

We started today off by enjoying the sun around the pool - as this may be one of the few days we can do it - but as our Meet and Greet was due to start at 11:00 we retired to our room to shower and change. SailorJill put on a cute little black French maid's mini dress with a frilly little white apron, thigh high fishnet stockings, black 5" stiletto heels and topped it off with a perky little white cap perched atop her jet black hair. Oops, sorry, that's my new screen saver - sorry about that. She is actually wearing sandals, white shorts and a T-shirt that reads "Now take my Husband... Please!" - a gift from her mother on the occasion of our 12th wedding anniversary.

 

Our Meet and Greet was well attended and we enjoyed the gathering immensely - after we got beyond the ubiquitous "where are you from" question. Originally from Vancouver, B.C., I now live in Atlanta where I am known as the reluctant Canadian because I rarely speak of my home town as I am loathe to say the actual words -“British Columbia.” There is something about that name that leads people to picture some postage stamp size clearing somewhere in the middle of South America where a lonely Union Jack flutters limply from a dead banana tree and where Anne Murray occasionally bursts into the clearing to sing a few refrains from Snowbird before disappearing back into the jungle. Not only that, but on cruises I have found that once I mention “British Columbia” at the dinner table I am often complemented on my mastery of the fork and knife and asked if I will be wearing my tribal costume on formal night.

 

As I had correctly predicted to SailorJill, the ship had a tango class today, so we went to the Celebrity Theatre to polish our skills. It was at this class that I learned from our instructor that not only was I lacking in rhythm and grace, but apparently I had two left feet - a genetic disorder of which I was previously unawares. Not to be deterred, I vowed to SailorJill that I would master the tango during the next two lessons we have on this cruise - an objective that was met by much merriment from those standing nearby. Besides, as our instructor pointed out, dancing the tango provides men with one of the few opportunities we have to lead women!

 

Tonight is the Captain's Cocktail Party. Counting the shipboard welcome, the Champagne reception at the Art Gallery, the Emporium liquor tasting, and the Watch and Scotch sale, this makes the fifth event in a day and a half where we have been provided free alcohol. While some are beginning to refer to our Antarctic adventure as a booze cruise, I think the ship is just trying to pump as much antifreeze into as they can before we reach Antarctica.

 

And God knows we will need it. The latest radio report from Frostbite Falls, Antarctica puts the temperature at minus 6 degrees and wind gusts of up to 50 MPH. This is on top of previous reports of 40 foot seas that have forced at least one ship to turnaround and skip Antarctica.

 

Call me a romantic, but I am pulling for the 40 foot waves that will force us to call on a nice warm port in Chile! I have come to the conclusion that if I am to survive this cruise I am going to need (a) a lot more antifreeze, or (b) more 40 foot waves. In an attempt to determine the wind chill together with the bitter cold we would be facing should we continue this cruise I entered the outside temperature, longitude, latitude, wind speed, and ocean temperature data into my iPad. After a brief moment of calculation, the message that flashed across the screen in bold capitalized letters was, "YOU ARE AN IDIOT! TAKE ME HOME! That's what comes from letting SailorJill download an AI app! My computer now has better common sense than I do!

 

 

Day 3 - Steaming South Somewhere Deep in the South Atlantic

 

I awoke today with a sense of well-being and thought I would start off the day by going up to the walking track on Deck 11 to get some fresh air and my morning exercise. That said, I often find it disconcerting how a day that starts off with such promise can so quickly go south (no pun intended). Such was the case today. As I passed a couple of lady walkers for the second time, one of the ladies apologized for being so slow. "No problem," I replied, "when my wife comes up to walk with me I'll be slow as well." Then, after taking a few steps, I was overcome with a sudden attack of guilt as I realized that what I had just said could be taken as a rather sexist comment.

 

I turned back to the lady and said "That's not to imply that ladies cannot walk as fast as men." Then digging the hole a little deeper, I added "It's just that men's legs are longer." Realizing that what I had just said could also be taken as sexist, I added "that's not to say that ladies don't have nice long legs as well." Then it hit me: I was discussing the characteristics of women's legs with a complete stranger on a dark walking track. Before she or her companion could call Security I mumbled something that was probably completely inane and hurried off.

 

As the sun slowly rose a number of people with cameras came up on deck. I don't know what it is about cruising that causes people to snap photos of things that they would not even take a glance at back home, but there they were. People were taking photos of the rising sun (the same one, I am sure, that they see back home), taking photos of other people taking photos, taking photos of the deck chairs, and taking photos of anything else that moved. I have even seen (and I swear I am not making this up) people taking photos of their dinner before they eat it!

 

Abandoning the deck to the budding Ansell Adams acolytes I retreated back to our cabin to shower and get ready for breakfast. As I stood by the elevator to take me back down to Deck 6 it suddenly dawned on me that I must have some kind of a major character flaw. I had arisen early for the specific objective of getting some exercise and now I was standing waiting for an elevator to take be down a few flights of stairs. Logic and common sense says to take the stairs and I knew that would be the right thing to do... so I pushed the elevator button again and waited.

 

 

Day 4 - Steaming South Somewhere Deeper in the South Atlantic

 

On our way to lunch today we walk by an alternative dinning venue aboard the Infinity called Bistro on Five when two of my most favorite words caught my eye - "Grand" and "Marnier." Taking a closer look at the posted menu I saw that among many other types of crepes were, be still my beating heart, "Crepes Grand Marnier."

 

Entering the dining establishment, the maître d' explained that there was a five dollar charge - but that we could eat as much as we desired. Taking a seat we were approached by our waiter:

 

SailorJack: "I understand that I can order as much as I like."

Waiter: "Of course, Sir."

SailorJack: "Then I would like a large plate of Crepes Grand Marnier, please."

Waiter: "Certainly, Sir. And how would you like them prepared?"

SailorJack: "With the Grand Marnier on the side please." (After all, the crepes were incidental - serving only as the delivery system for the Grand Marnier.)

Waiter: "I'm sorry sir, but the Grand Marnier is actually a part of the crepes recipe."

SailorJack: "OK. Then I would like them with extra Grand Marnier."

Waiter: "Of course, sir."

 

We both knew that there would be no extra Grand Marnier, but sometimes it's all about the illusion. Sometimes.

 

 

Day 5 -Ushuaia, Argentina

 

The main problem with this port is that you can never tell anyone where you have been because you can't pronounce it without spending 8 hours in intense therapy with a licensed linguist. My experience with our tour guide trying to teach me to articulate it reminded me of my lessons in speaking "Southern" when I first moved to Atlanta:

 

Language Instructor: "OK, we'll start off with the word y'all - which is a Southern pronoun. Now you try and say it."

SailorJack: "Youse."

Instructor: " No, not quite. The word needs to be both singular and plural and it has an apostrophe in it. Try again."

SailorJack" "You'uns."

Instructor: " Closer - now try one more time - Y'all."

SailorJack: "Y'all."

Instructor: "Perfect! Now try grits - which is a traditional Southern breakfast food."

SailorJack: "Cream of Wheat."

Instructor: "Ever thought about moving back up North?"

 

Anyway, the city of Ushuaia serves as the capital of the Argentinean province of Tierra del Fuego, which, based on personal experience, is probably Spanish for "Land of Frozen Butts." It bills itself as the Southernmost city in the world and lies just above the Antarctica circle. A census taken in 1893 listed the population as 113 men and 36 women (there has to be a story or two here!) - which made it an ideal spot to place a prison for both hardened and political prisoners. The prison was opened in 1896 and I believe the name Ushuaia was chosen by the Argentinean authorities as an excellent means of frustrating attempts at escape:

 

Prisoner (making a clandestine call from the Warden's office): "I've got it all worked out - we are breaking out of here Saturday night. I need you to have a car waiting outside the wall at midnight."

Outside Confederate: "OK - where are you."

Prisoner (after a short pause): "I can't pronounce it."

Confederate: "What! How can I pick you up?"

Prisoner: "OK, I'll try - it's sort of like Youasia; no more like Ushweea, or maybe Euthenasia."

Confederate: "There is no such place. Look, just tell me how to get there."

Prisoner: "Well, I'm not exactly sure - but it's really cold here and one of the guards said it is the southern terminus for the Pan-American highway."

Confederate: "What's a terminus?"

Prisoner: "Forget it, I'll see you in 10 years."

 

Anyway, in Ushuaia we have signed up for a tour that takes us through the city of Ushuaia and into the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Now I know what a lot of you are wondering: was our tour guide any good? I am pleased to announce that the answer is - Yes! There are, in my opinion, two types of guides - which I categorize as (a) practical and (b) good.

 

The practical guide, for instance, will point out that Ushuaia sits on the Beagle Channel which was discovered on January 29,1833, is 150 miles long, 3 miles wide at its narrowest point, and was named in honor of the breed of Captain Fitzroy's dog, Oscar.

 

As approximately 47.3 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot, the date may or may not be accurate. But it doesn't matter! By the time we get home we are only going to remember two things from the tour (a) we were glad the Captain's dog wasn't a Shih Tzu, and (b) the weather was damn cold!

 

On the other hand I knew our guide was in the "good" category when he pointed out that the first school (and I swear I am not making this up!) "was over there...or maybe over there, and was founded in eighteen forty something." He knew details were unimportant; but, demonstrating that he clearly understood the guide business he pointed out, "you see that yellow building on the corner two blocks up the hill? That is a bar that serves really good beer."

 

Now, when we get home, we are going to remember two things, (a) Ushuaia has a really good bar, and (b) the beer was damn cold!

 

 

Day 6 - Cape Horn, Chile

 

The show tonight featured a group called the Pompous Devils. They were an Argentinean dance troupe that provided displays of synchronized dancing, unique demonstrations of something called a bolo, and sensual tango dancing. I was prepared to dislike the show as I have a natural adversity to someone who is arrogant and thinks they are more important than everyone else. I can see Wall Street types being pompous, but what kind of effrontery is it for an Argentinean dance troupe to advertise their arrogance? As I was explaining to SailorJill my mixed feelings regarding this group, she replied (in her best "why me" voice) "Jack, they are The Pampas Devils not the Pompous Devils. Pampas are the Argentinean grasslands.

 

"OK, but why the name "Devils" - is there some sort of occult thing going on here? I mean first the Devils and then the show tomorrow night features some sort of mentalist and a Mongolian extortionist - this can't be a coincidence!" "Jack, the show tomorrow features an Instrumentalist -that's a person who plays several different instruments, and the woman from Mongolia is a very famous Contortionist - not an extortionist." OK, but you can see how someone can get confused.

 

 

Day 7 - Schollart Channel and Paradise Bay, Antarctica

 

We wake today to find ourselves enveloped in a heavy grey fog that is so thick that one can barely see three feet ahead - which, in retrospect, is actually an improvement to the visual conditions I faced leaving the Rendezvous Bar last night. But, fog or no fog, this is to be an exciting day - our first in Antarctica.

 

Because of the frigid conditions out on deck, the ship has set up a "Base Camp" in the Constellation Lounge complete with Antarctica artifacts, coffee, rolls, and literature related to Antarctica. From here we can watch our progress as we approach the daunting coast of Antarctica. Because of the deep fog, the ship is creeping along at 13 knots through the rolling grey seas. As the fog bank continues to close in around us it becomes impossible to discern where the fog ends and the sea begins. It was if the ship was wrapped in a soft grey protective cocoon, penetrated only by the deep and rhythmic call of the pilot's fog horn.

 

The fog effectively hides the wonders that lay ahead and actually acts to build our anticipation in seeing what brought most of us on this cruise. Then, shortly before noon, it was like Mother Nature suddenly flipped a switch that lifted the fog and we are presented with one of the most dramatic vistas we have ever seen - sheer cliffs of brilliant white snow that plunged into the cold waters of the Antarctic sea, icebergs drifting by us just meters away, and a myriad of Antarctic wildlife. In the course of the next hour alone we will see over fifteen whales, schools of penguins as they skipped through the cold waters below, soaring Albatrosses flying high above us, and the smaller Skuas as they skimmed above an ocean teeming with millions of Krill. As the Infinity continued to weave its way through a growing and unprecedented parade of ice flows we wonder how anything can be more majestic than what we are seeing.

 

And then we enter Paradise Bay.

 

It is absolutely stunning! Surrounded by towering cliffs and icy shelves, we spot numerous penguin rookeries. Soon we begin a competition to see who can spot the first seals. I am pleased to announce that I was the first to spot a seal when, through my binoculars I spotted a small dark object in the water coming our way. As its approach got nearer several people noted that it appeared to actually be a small boat with four people in it. As it got closer I had to admit that it was, in fact, a small Zodiac with four people in it. I was about to admit that I may have been hasty when I realized that I had been right all along. I mean, four men dressed in dark clothing, wearing black ski masks, and speeding along in a black Zodiac with two powerful outboard engines and in an area where they could have reasonably been sure not to be seen - what else could they have been but seals - Navy SEALS!

 

 

Day 8 - Elephant Island, Antarctica

 

It is our second day in Antarctica and we wake again to a soft blanket of swirling fog that envelops our ship. Prior to heading up for breakfast, we stand on our balcony drinking hot steaming mugs of rich Columbian coffee and watching as icebergs emerge from the mist ahead of us and then slowly disappear into the velvety shadows behind us. Then, in one of those amazing moments that creates lasting memories, we watch as a sea lion, hitching a ride on an ice berg, drifts by - not 10 meters away. It may have been my imagination but I am sure we made a connection - each of us eying the other in an unspoken acknowledgement of the serenity of the moment. I thought about getting my camera but stood transfixed - not wanting to break the spell. Then, black skin flashing against the pristine whiteness of the iceberg, the sea lion slips into the dark waters of the Antarctic - perhaps seeking his own breakfast.

 

After breakfast we near our next stop - Elephant Island - made notable as the island from whence Shackleton made his heroic and amazing two year odyssey to rescue the crew of his ice bound ship. The story of that amazing rescue is one of the greatest maritime stories of all time. Unfortunately, it is my sad duty to report that there are no Elephants on Elephant Island. Perhaps Shackleton's crew ate them, perhaps they swam to the mainland, perhaps it was just a spelling error and the person meant to name it Elegant Island - who knows. But no elephants.

 

Leaving Elephant Island behind, we spent the rest of the day slipping from fog bank to fog bank - occasionally emerging into shafts of brilliant sunlight and the sight of distant islands - only to plunge once again into the gray Antarctic mist. Then in one of our more mystical moments we emerge from the fog and, in the distance, see the imposing crest of Cornwallis Island peeking out of the low hanging clouds that shroud its base. The sight evokes comparisons to Jules Verne's Mysterious Island - or perhaps The Lost World. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared as the swirling white clouds rose up and once again wrapped the island in a veil of secrecy. SailorJill compares it to Brigadoon - the fabled city that only appears briefly before disappearing again for 1,000 years.

 

 

Day 10 - Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

 

We have arrived in Port Stanley and for the first time in days we see a rising sun that illuminates a clear blue sky. But by the time we board the tender the fog has rolled in and a light mist has begun to fall. Boarding the tender, SailorJill takes a seat below, and against her strong advice, I take a seat on top in order to take photos. In deference to the residents of Port Stanley, who rely on tourist dollars, I do not want to overstate how cold it got up there, but my camera lens froze after six minutes and shortly thereafter I considered changing my name to SailorJackSickle.

 

Thank God the first building we see after getting off the tender is the Tourist Information Bureau. Grabbing SailorJill we enter the building where we, along with the other passengers from the top deck, huddle in a corner - desperately hoping that our blood will once again begin to circulate. I mean, like I have on a SubArctic down filled parka with an R-35 rating, a large thick hoodie, a big sweatshirt, and a long sleeved T-shirt and I still feel colder than one of Mrs. Paul's Frozen Fish Sticks. I'm not quite sure of the exact status of my extremities, but my fingers are refusing to cooperate and I figure my toes are toast. I assume my brain isn't working well either, or I wouldn't have come up with that last metaphor.

 

I don't know how long it took to thaw out, but we eventually set out to explore Port Stanley. We had initially signed up for a glass bottom boat ride so we could see the Argentinean Navy, but no way was I about to go out again on a small boat! We then thought about taking a walk to the hills just outside Port Stanley, but were deterred by a notation in our guide book that said: "most minefields are clearly marked." The operative word being "most". It also stated that it was illegal to enter a minefield and that we must call the Bomb Squad (Tel. 73613) should we happen upon an unexploded bomb or an unmarked mine. The only other time I have been forced to tread a dangerous minefield was when SailorJill came back from shopping at Macys and asked me which of her two new dresses made her look the heaviest. That didn't turn out so well and I had no wish to repeat the experience, so we nixed the scenic stroll idea and instead explored the town of Port Stanley - which is a delightful town and well worth the visit.

 

Among the many interesting sights to see is the partially submerged wreck of the Jhelum, a three- masted barque that was built in 1849 and arrived in Port Stanley in 1870. It was said to be leaking from the fierce storms it had encountered rounding the horn, but I think the crew deliberately scuttled her to avoid spending three more months on it sailing to France. Why? It carried 60 tons of bat guano! I have no idea why France needed to import 60 tons of smelly bat guano, but I sincerely hope it had nothing to do with the development of the Roquefort and Camembert cheese industry.

 

 

Day 13 - Steaming North off the Coast of Argentina

 

In an effort to keep up with the news I have signed up to have the newsletter "The Canadian" delivered to my stateroom. Fortunately I had time to read it today and, as a result, I will be able to save the Canadian government 50 million dollars. According to an article in the newsletter entitled "Moose Mystery," that is the amount of money the government is giving the University of Saskatchewan to fund a four year study to determine (and I swear I am not making this up) why moose in rural areas feel the need "to cross rural roads." The study, known locally as the Bullwinkle Project, will help develop "a long term moose management strategy."

 

I already know the answer to the question - as a similar study done in the United States involving chickens was widely publicized when I was in school. Should a grateful nation wish to provide me a small honorarium, I will include my mailing address when I contact them upon my return to the United States.

 

 

Day 14 - Montevideo, Uruguay

 

On our tour of Montevideo we stopped at the Parliament Building, a magnificent structure which housed the legislative branch of the Uruguayan government as well as the glass encased Constitution of Uruguay. This was our second visit to Montevideo and we had visited this building before - with calamitous results. On that visit we had arrived during the Changing of the Guard. A squad of 8 soldiers marched in tight formation into the Rotunda and came to attention with their backs facing us. The Sergeant of the Guard then barked out "Fix Bayonets" and in what was supposed to be in complete unison, the eight soldiers slapped their sheaths, withdrew their bayonets, and in a staccato of rapid clicks affixed them to their rifles.

 

As it turned out, only seven of them had acted in perfect unison. The eighth soldier could not get his bayonet out of the sheath. As discreetly as possible he had yanked and tugged at the thing as the Sergeant's face became angrier by the minute. Under that dreadful glare, he had abandoned all efforts at subtlety and had grabbed at the sheath with both hands. While I couldn't see the soldiers face, I saw the sudden look of panic on the Sergeant's face as the forgotten carbine slowly fell onto the Rotunda's hard marble floor.

 

I had never guessed, up to that point, that the rifles were actually loaded...having thought that they were, oh, I don't know...empty? In the ensuing rush to exit the building we never learned the outcome of that unfortunate accident.

 

Now on our second visit we are curious to see if there is a small hole in the Constitution - perhaps one that is, oh, about 9mm in diameter. I am pleased to report however, that while we missed the changing of the guard during this visit, we found the Constitution to be intact.

 

Towards the end of our tour our guide said that he would be taking us to an area of the city known for its vigilantes - in order to fully appreciate all the aspects of life in Montevideo. Now, as a seasoned international traveler I am usually not squeamish, but I have seen Death Wish I, II, and III and I had no real desire to be part of IV. My suggestion that we see some other area of the city was voted down by the rest of the group - who were mostly French. More than just a little concerned, I turned to our guide:

 

SailorJack: "Have you taken American tourists there before?"

Guide: "Of course, it is part of my regular tour."

SailorJack: "Have you gotten them all back safely?"

Guide: "Of course, although I have to admit, there have been some, ah, shall we say reluctance in leaving at times."

SailorJack: Will we be passing a Post Office on the way?"

Guide: "I don't think so, why?"

SailorJack: "I'd like to mail my watch and wallet back to the ship." Noticing our guide's hard stare I added, "Of course, I'll keep back enough money for your tip. In fact I could be very generous if we skipped the whole vigilante thing."

 

Well, to make a long story short, we arrived at that part of the city known as Ciudad Vieja, left the relative safety of our van, went into a restaurant named Corchos and took a large corner table. I couldn't help but notice that there were vigilantes at almost all of the tables - including ours! I took a chair with my back to the wall (I had seen this defensive strategy used on several episodes of Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel). After finishing off several margaritas, and I have no logical explanation for what I did next, I grabbed one of the vigilantes at our table and got down to business!

 

Did I mention that margaritas and vigilantes are Uruguayan cookies? No? Actually, they are a type of bizcocho - margaritas being sweet with a pastry filling and vigilantes being long and thin with a sugar coating. Who knew? It turns out that the only dangerous thing about these vigilantes is the damage a plate of them can do to your waistline!

 

 

Buenos Aires

 

Our cruise finally over, we head to the airport to catch our flight home. In contrast to our arrival in Buenos Aires, our departure was a dream. After handing us our boarding cards the Delta agent asked if we would like to wait in their private lounge. So as not to hurt his feelings, we graciously accepted and then literally sailed through security and customs - no lines and no waiting. Did I mention the lounge had free beer. Well it did!

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That is one of the funniest reviews I have ever read...pehaps made funnier as we are booked on that cruise next year.

 

Wonderful....

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Great review! Very, very intertwining! Can't wait for the photos!

 

Are you sure your name isn't John Corey?

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Well that was one of the best reads I've had in ages....thoroughly enjoyed it. Do you write for a living?

 

.....Ooooooo and pictures to come? :)

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I've read your cruise reports on the RCI forum and it's great to see you here too! Excellent and funny as all-get-out, just like we expect from you. :D

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That is one of the funniest reviews I have ever read...pehaps made funnier as we are booked on that cruise next year.

 

Wonderful....

 

Glad you enjoyed it! This was a great cruise. It has been several years since we sailed on Celebrity and I had forgotten how good it was. We truly enjoyed the Infinity - it was just the right size and the crew was fantastic. You are going to have a good time...too bad you have to wait a year to do it!:D

Edited by SailorJack

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Oh, hooray!! Another greatly entertaining, supremely funny and well written Sailor Jack cruise review! What a treat to find on a day when some smiles are definitely needed. Thank you for sharing!!

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Most. Entertaining. Review. EVER!:D

 

Thanks for sharing this; as soon as I stop laughing & mop up the tea I spewed all over my desk :eek: early on in reading your review, I'm calling my travel agent to book this trip for next February. :)

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Probably one of the best and most entertaining reviews I've ever read. I was sorry when it came to end! You certainly remind me of the writing style of Nelson DeMille. Thank you.

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great review - can't wait to see sailorjill in her french outf...oh heck that was a joke, wasn't it.:(

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Followed you here from the HAL Board, Jack. Shame on you for making us wait for this installment. I found myself opening the Celebrity Board first, just to see if a Sailor Jack thread had been started. Today, I was rewarded:D!

 

Bravo - another job well done!

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YEAH! Another Sailor Jack review! For those of you who haven't read his other ones, they are a riot! Search for them, your time will be well spent.

 

Glad to hear you enjoyed the Infinity as I am about to embark on her for a B2B2B.

 

Thanks for sharing your great sense of humor with us yet again! By the way, I'm a great fan of British Columbia.

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This will go down as one of the greatest reviews/posts ever!

 

And to think you are talking (well, typing actually) about the serious subject of cruising and vacationing. How can you be so flippant about such a subject that needed photos of 0.08in (sorry. 0.056mm you being Canadian and all), specks of rust so we can all spend 43+ posts threatening to cancel our future cruises?

 

Den

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I always enjoy your unique view point! Getting ready to cruise in 18 days - Thanks for the chuckle!

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Are you sure you're not a stand up comedian? Reading this brightened my day! :D

 

Glad you found it amusing. Not a stand-up comedian, but that is on my bucked list. It is something I always wanted to try at least once and I actually put together a routine for the Passenger Talent Show on the Infinity, but they only wanted Karaoke singers.:( I'll have to try it on our Princess cruise next year.

 

 

Great review! Very, very intertwining! Can't wait for the photos!

 

 

 

Are you sure your name isn't John Corey?

 

 

Photos are coming, but I have to upload over 500 of them (I won't post all of them!) and it is slow going. My apologies, but I am not familiar with John Corey.

 

 

Well that was one of the best reads I've had in ages....thoroughly enjoyed it. Do you write for a living?

 

 

 

.....Ooooooo and pictures to come?

 

Don't write for a living. Other than work related documents and speeches (for our CEO) this is the only outside writing I have done...but I do have a lot of fun with it.:)

Edited by SailorJack

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That was hysterical! We were on your cruise and had some of the same feelings (i.e. people taking pictures of chairs, people taking people or people taking pictures and of course............trying to say Ushuaia).

 

Thanks for the laugh!

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This is a truly hilarious - and informative - review! Thank you for posting. The adventurer in me would love to do this cruise, but the fear of sea sickness (and dislike of cold) deters me. Were rough seas a problem? Were you able to enjoy your balcony much?

 

Sheila

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Photos are coming, but I have to upload over 500 of them (I won't post all of them!) and it is slow going. My apologies, but I am not familiar with John Corey.

 

John Corey is a character in Nelson DeMille novels who displays the same wit as you do.

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